The city produces an impression as of a town built in the clouds and then dropped, scattered over the plain with vast arid and barren spaces left between the houses. In the native and Moslem quarters, indeed, there is a crowd of buildings, closely packed, crammed together on quite a small plot of ground; and among them the electric tramway runs its cars, useless just now, and empty of travellers, for it is the beginning of Ramadan, and the Mohammedans in broad daylight are letting off crackers in honour of the festival.After him came another little Hindoo, dragging a mongoose, very like a large weasel with a fox's tail. He took a snake out of a bag, and a battle began between the two brutes, each biting with all its might; the sharp teeth of the mongoose tried to seize the snake's head, and the reptile curled round the mongoose's body to bite under the fur. At last the mongoose crushed the serpent's head with a fierce nip, and instantly a hawk flew down from a tree and snatched away the victim.
A funeral came pushing past me in the silence of this sleeping district: the body, wrapped in red, hung from a bamboo that rested on the bearers' shoulders. No one followed him, and the group disappeared at once in the deep gloom of the narrow alley.
After him came another little Hindoo, dragging a mongoose, very like a large weasel with a fox's tail. He took a snake out of a bag, and a battle began between the two brutes, each biting with all its might; the sharp teeth of the mongoose tried to seize the snake's head, and the reptile curled round the mongoose's body to bite under the fur. At last the mongoose crushed the serpent's head with a fierce nip, and instantly a hawk flew down from a tree and snatched away the victim.
And then, under the verandah, the accused were brought up: an old man and a youth, father and son, both superbly handsome, very tall, erect, haughty, in spite of the hustling of the armed men and the heavy chains that weighed on them; and after bowing low to the judge they stood towering above the crowd of witnesses, soldiers, and native functionaries, in magnificent dignity and calm indifference.At mess there were two newly-arrived officers, come from Tochi; they had been attacked on the road in the night by sixteen men. The driver and the horse were killed; they themselves had not a scratch, and they told the story very much at their ease, relating the comic features of the incident—how a bullet had lodged itself in a pot hanging to a mule's pack, and the frightened creature had kicked "like mad."
Towards evening Ellora came in sight, the sacred hill crowned with temples, in a blaze of glory at first from the crimson sunset, and then vaguely blue, wiped out, vanishing in the opalescent mist.
In front of us were men loaded with bundles or with children; old women gasping as they leaned on long staves; chattering women with green or pink or white veils, their arms full of sheaves of flowers. By each little temple—between which there are[Pg 71] kiosks, sheltering innumerable grinning idols—trees grow, and under their shade the pilgrims break the climb with a short rest. In a palankin, carried by two men, a slim woman's figure was borne past, in a pink gauze dress spangled with silver; her feet and hands, beringed with silver and gold, were exquisitely delicate. For an instant her veil blew aside, showing her face, rigid with horrible white leprosy, only her almond-shaped black eyes—beautiful eyes—were alive with intense brilliancy, full of unfathomable woe.
I turned back into Grant Road, where bands of tom-toms and harmoniums were hard at it, where the gamblers were stifling each other round the roulette-boards in a frenzy of amusement and high spirits, eager for enjoyment before hovering death should swoop down on them.
We set out from Srinagar in an ekka, drawn at a trot by our only horse. The driver, perched on the shaft almost by his steed's side, dressed in green with an enormous pink pugaree, flogged and shouted incessantly. The monotonous landscape went on and on between the poplars that border the road, extending as far as the blue circle of distant Himalayas. The valley was green with the first growth of spring; as yet there were no flowers. And till evening fell, the same horizon shut us in with mountains that seemed to recede from us.I have no right to stay in Cashmere without the authorization of the Anglo-Indian Government, and ought to have handed such a permit to the police on arriving. I have none—no papers whatever.Then her bedroom: no bed, only a vast mattress rolled up against the wall, and spread over the floor every night—it must cover the whole room.
Squeezed in and crushed between houses that tower above it, rises the pointed dome of Biseshwar Matti, covered with leaves of chased gold; smaller cones surround the principal dome, bristling with tiny pyramids of gold, carved into flowers round statues of Kali with her eight arms, of Ganesa, and of peacocks with spread tails. Under this splendid cupola, dazzlingly bright against the sky,[Pg 156] the temple itself is quite small, and strictly closed against the unbeliever. Some pious hands had hung chains of jasmine and roses above the entrance, and they gave a touch of beauty to the stonework, very old, and soiled with large stains of oil. A sense of intense piety hangs about this sanctuary, subdues every voice, and bends the head of every passer-by in reverence of the mystery, and they all bring flowers.A Catholic church flanking the Jesuit college persistently sent up to us the shrill tinkle of a little bell, rattling out its quick, harsh strokes like a factory bell for workmen.The hills are left behind us; the plateau of Cashmere spreads as far as the eye can see, traversed by the glistening Jellum, that slowly rolling stream, spreading here and there into lakes.
This interminable piece, with twenty changes of scene, dragged its weary length till two in the morning. One by one the soldiers went away; even the baboos soon followed them, and only the coolies remained, enthusiastically applauding every scene, every harangue, in a frenzy of delight, before the final apotheosis of Tazulmulook and Bakaoli, as man and wife, lovingly united against a background of trees with golden boughs.Above the road lie dark cliffs; a rose-coloured waterfall of melted snow tumbled mixing with the clay—pink with lilac depths, and the foam iridescent in the sunbeams. The ruins of a large temple of green stone carved with myriads of fine lines stood in solitude at the edge of a wood, and the background was the mountain-range, the Himalayas, lost in the sky and bathed in blue light. Only a portico remains standing—a massive, enduring frame for the infinite distance of snow-capped giants. The stones have lost their hue; they are darkly streaked by the rains and a growth of grey and purple mosses, and russet or white lichens have eaten into the surface.Afternoon, in the bazaar, in the warm glow of the sinking sun, wonderfully quiet. No sound but that of some workmen's tools; no passers-by, no shouting of voices, no bargaining. A few poor people stand by the stalls and examine the goods, but the seller does not seem to care. Invisible guzlas vibrate in the air, and the piping invitation of a moollah falls from the top of a minaret.详情
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